With COVID driving a rise in mental health issues affecting students, I explored the effect of school-based wellness centers on high school students and discussed how and why they should be implemented in low-income communities if not already offered.
According to a study by Stacy Hodgkinson PhD, living in poor or low-income households is linked to poor health and an increased risk for mental health problems in both children and adults that can persist across their life spans. Despite this noted need for mental health services, children and families living in poverty are least likely to access high-quality mental health care (Hodgkinson et. al, 2017). Compared to people living in middle or high-income communities, students living in low-income communities are inherently disadvantaged due to a lack of mental health resources, which may result in them developing major psychological issues, such as generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder (MDD). Furthermore, some researchers have found that a fear of stigma is a fundamental cause of health inequalities, demonstrated by poverty stigma is associated with poor mental health among lower income groups (Knifton & Inglis, 2020). Though students in low-income communities are more prone to developing mental health related issues as they develop, they may not choose to seek out care due to its lack of affordability, accessibility, and the overall stigma they attach to such care.
While these individuals are at a significant disadvantage, school-based wellness centers can serve as an adequate solution to this. Saratoga High School, a public school located in the Bay Area of California, provides a wellness center as a place where students can take short breaks during class, connect with their strengths, and receive mental health support (Saratoga High, n.d.). Such centers, located within high schools, could eliminate issues of accessibility and affordability of mental health resources as they would be available on-demand for all students. Additionally, the stigma surrounding receiving mental health among lower-income students could be reduced, as students see peers utilizing wellness centers services and may feel comfortable using such services themselves.
In all, I believe wellness centers should be implemented in lower-income high schools. Teenage mental health is an incredibly important issue, which should not be ignored, and the growing value of wellness centers can help nullify this issue to some extent.
Hodgkinson, S., Godoy, L., Beers, L. S., & Lewin, A. (2017). Improving Mental Health Access for Low- Income Children and Families in the Primary Care Setting. Pediatrics, 139(1), e20151175. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2015-1175
Knifton, L., & Inglis, G. (2020). Poverty and mental health: policy, practice and research implications. BJPsych bulletin, 44(5), 193–196. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjb.2020.78
Wellness center. Wellness Center. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2022, from https://www.saratogahigh.org/student_life/wellness_center#:~:text=The%20Wellness%20Center%20is %20a,%2D%20receive%20mental%20health%20suppor